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Table of Contents

  1. Topic pack - Microeconomics - introduction
  2. 1.1 Competitive Markets: Demand and Supply
  3. 1.1 Competitive Markets: Demand and Supply - notes
  4. 1.1 Competitive markets - questions
  5. 1.1 Competitive markets - simulations and activities
  6. 1.2 Elasticities
  7. 1.2 Elasticities - notes
  8. Section 1.2 Elasticities - questions
  9. Section 1.2 Elasticities - simulations and activities
  10. 1.3 Government intervention
  11. 1.3 Government Intervention - notes
  12. 1.3 Government intervention - questions
  13. 1.3 Government intervention - simulations and activities
  14. 1.4 Market failure
  15. 1.4 Market failure - notes
    1. The meaning of externalities
    2. Types of externalities
    3. How do externalities affect allocative efficiency?
    4. Negative externalities of production
    5. Negative externalities of consumption
    6. The economic theory of traffic congestion
    7. Demerit goods
    8. Government responses - demerit goods
    9. Possible government responses to externalities
    10. Direct government provision
    11. Extension of property rights
    12. Taxes and subsidies
    13. Tradeable pollution rights
    14. Regulation, legislation and direct controls
    15. Positive externalities of production
    16. Positive externalities of consumption
    17. Merit goods
    18. Why might merit goods be underprovided by the market?
    19. Government responses - merit goods
    20. Public goods
    21. Common access resources & sustainability
    22. The tragedy of the Commons
    23. Common access resources in practice
    24. Sustainability
    25. Threats to Sustainability
    26. The threat to sustainability from the use of fossil fuels
    27. The threat to sustainability from poverty
    28. Government responses to threats to sustainability
    29. Cap and Trade Schemes
    30. Promoting Clean Technologies
    31. The 'dirty side' of cleaner technologies
    32. International responses to threats to sustainability
    33. Asymmetric information
    34. Abuse of monopoly power
    35. Inequality
  16. Section 1.4 Market failure - questions
  17. Section 1.4 Market failure - simulations and activities
  18. 1.5 Theory of the firm
  19. 1.5 Theory of the firm - notes (HL only)
  20. Section 1.5 Theory of the firm - questions
  21. Section 1.5 Theory of the firm - simulations and activities
  22. Print View

Merit goods

S:\triplea_resources\DP_topic_packs\economics\student_topic_packs\media_microeconomics\images\fire_engine.jpgWhat are merit goods?

Merit goods are the opposite of demerit goods - they are goods which are deemed to be socially desirable, and which are likely to be under-produced and under-consumed through the market mechanism. Examples of merit goods include education, health care, welfare services, housing, fire protection, refuse collection and public parks.

In contrast to pure public goods, merit goods could be, and indeed are, provided through the market, but not necessarily in sufficient quantities to maximise social welfare. Thus goods such as education and health care are provided by the state, but there is also a parallel, thriving private sector provision. Indeed, there is considerable disagreement between economists on the right and left of the political spectrum over the extent to which such goods should be provided by the state or the private sector. We consider these arguments later in this section.


Before we proceed with our discussion of merit goods, and in particular the question of why merit goods tend to be underprovided by the market, it would be useful at this stage to summarise the main differences between public goods, private goods and merit goods. Have a go at filling in the blank table below (we have put in a few entries to help you along). Once you have had a go, follow the link under the table to compare your answers with ours.

Main features Public goods Merit goods Private goods
Diminishability (non-rivalry) Non-diminishable (non-rivalry)
Excludability Excludable
Benefits Individual and communal (strong positive externalities)
Provider Usually private enterprise
Financed by Usually taxation

Main features of public, merit and private goods - full table